How Often Do You Write Checks These Days?
Does anyone still write checks? We had that discussion around the office the other day, and most answers made me feel old.
When did you last write checks to pay your bills?
I’m actually old enough to remember those old-fashioned slips of paper and I had a checkbook as early as age 16.
I wasn’t always that great when it came to balancing my checkbook, but I certainly knew how to do it. (And with the help of programs like Quicken, I could do it much easier and much faster.)
I still have a checkbook, but to be honest, I couldn’t tell you exactly where in my home it’s actually hiding at the moment. I know it’s not missing; it’s just tucked away in a safe place. Given enough time, I’d figure out which safe place it’s in.
The worst part of the discussion was the fact that there are a handful of co-workers who’ve never written a check. They are just young enough to have missed the height of check-writing, so they’ve pretty much always relied on debit cards.
I can’t say that I blame them: I stopped using checks at the grocery store when cashiers started scanning them and basically turning them into a debit transaction, then handing the check back to me along with the receipt. If my check was going to become an instant debit, I might as well use the debit card.
But the fact that checks have fallen out of favor isn’t new. Back in 2016, NPR asked if it was time to “write off checks.”
And two years before that, back in 2014, The Atlantic was talking about the “rise and fall” of checks:
According to the Fed, debit cards and credit cards are by far consumers’ favorite way to make payments. Some 43 percent of the consumers surveyed by the Fed said debit was their preferred method of payment. Another 22 percent preferred using credit cards. A solid 30 percent preferred cash. Checks? Only 3 percent of the people who took part in the Fed study preferred using checks.
Technology created a more reliable alternative
These days, I make my payments online, either at websites of individual credit cards, through auto-pay functions, or through a bill payment option my bank offers. They send electronic checks that leave my account and appear at a payment within about two days.
Like checks, I have a record of when the money left my account, so if anyone claims they didn’t receive the payment, I can show them that they did.
Oddly enough, I had one credit card company in particular who seemed to claim payments in the form of traditional checks never seemed to arrive on time. When I switched to the electronic alternative, I’ve never had a late payment since.
Maybe the postal service was partly to blame; here in Charleston, they are amazingly inconsistent in delivery times.
But unlike traditional checks, which can be held for a few days before being cashed, these electronic “checks” can’t be: I see when that money goes in, so no one can get away with claiming otherwise.
I don’t mind going without having to write checks to pay bills at all, especially if I have more reliable information on where (and when) the money’s going!